Creative Connections!

We are delighted to get this blog up and running after a while in recess. This October we will be hosting a workshop funded by the Irish Research Council’s Creative Connections Scheme: “A revolution in how we live? An interdisciplinary workshop on creative approaches to education for environmental understanding and responsibility”. The event on the 18-19th October, will involve a range of Ireland based scholars, artists, activists, educators and other folk and will be hosted by the Glucksman Galley. More details and information to follow!

Post-conference thanks and thoughts…

Dear friends, old and new,

What an exhilarating, eye-opening couple of days! I am grateful to everyone for the education and inspiration, as well as for the laughs and hugs. I have been working in the area of Environmental Humanities for a while now, and have found it challenging to engage the interest of colleagues in the sciences. What we all accomplished on Saturday offers an example of true, meaningful interdisciplinary work. We will build on the creative, intellectual energy that crackled through O’Rahilly 2.55 that day. Ben and I are already compiling a list of speakers and performers to add to the roster for the next event. Thank you for making Trans-disciplinary Conversations on Peatlands a success, and for tolerating instant coffee and forlorn sandwiches. I assume you have all begun to drop your adopted Irish word into casual conversation.

Looking forward to working with you all again.



What’s a Peatland Worth?

The final blog post from our invited speakers comes from Clifton Bain, Director of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Peatland Programme and author of several books including ‘The Rain Forests of Britain and Ireland‘…

For many, blissfully rambling across a peatland, exhilarated by the abundance of wide open space, rich aromas of myrtle and musical calls of wading birds, the experience is priceless. Yet, a lack of recognition of the true costs associated with the services provided by peatlands in traditional economics has led to widespread degradation. Recent work by economists attempts to solve this, with new, measurable values for peatlands now available.

In 2011, the UK National Ecosystem Assessment calculated the benefit peatlands bring to water quality as being worth £1.5 billion per year and the amenity benefits worth another £1.3 billion. UK water companies are acting on this and now spend tens of £millions repairing peat bogs in drinking water catchments, as a more cost effective solution to ‘brown water’ treatment works downstream.

The cost of climate change to society extends into the £billions and is seen by major business leaders as a real threat to our economy. However, we have allowed our largest terrestrial carbon store to degrade and release more carbon into the atmosphere rather than help remove it as a healthy system would.

Degraded peatland landscape: Credit: North Pennines ANOB Partnership

For centuries financial reward has encouraged damaging practices through subsidies for agriculture, forestry and energy production or markets for peat fuel and horticulture products. These failed to recognise the much greater cost of degraded peatlands. Our challenge now is to translate the benefits of natural systems to society into tangible support for those who manage them.

Recent initiatives have seen new approaches seeking to ensure the benefits of healthy peatlands are better reflected in Government funding for land managers. Alongside, we have the emergence of private markets that allow businesses to pay for peatland ‘ecosystem services’. The Peatland Code is one example where carbon savings resulting from the repair of damaged peatlands can provide new income for often economically challenged rural areas.

We are beginning to see a future where a healthy bog is recognised as wor